Monty Cartwright, a former athletic director, coach and teacher at Southern Oregon University, will be remembered as fair man with a calm demeanor and who often put others first, particularly the school’s athletes. The 2010 SOU Sports Hall of Fame inductee and one of the Raider athletic department’s most influential figures passed away from cancer Monday evening in Portland. He was 74.
“He was always fair,” said SOU athletic director Matt Sayre, who was hired by Cartwright in 1996 as an assistant football coach under Jeff Olson. “He was in touch with all of the people who worked for him, and he always told me that when a decision is hard to make, the decision that you make comes down to what’s best for the student-athlete. And that will always be the right decision.”
It sounds simple, said Sayre, but it’s not. “I always find myself pulling the old, ‘WWMD? What would Monty do?’” he said. “I’ve stuck with that philosophy and it’s helped us greatly here. And it’s been his legacy, I think.”
A native of Delano, California, Cartwright first arrived in Ashland in 1984 and served as SOU’s head track and field coach from 1985-98, overseeing 43 NAIA All-America performances and seven national champions. In 1995, he became the director of athletics and recreational sports and held the post for six years. During that time, SOU added three women’s sports and contributions to the student-athlete scholarship fund nearly quadrupled.
Wrestling coach Mike Ritchey was a freshman on the mat team in 1983 and has been at the school since. Cartwright, he said, was instrumental in the athletic and business sides. “I think he opened some doors that would have maybe still been closed,” said Ritchey, “as far as the Raider Club and things like that and the connections with some pretty high profile people in the valley. I think his legacy is that we got to that level of professionalism with him in charge. That was needed.”
After Cartwright took the reins, the 1996-97 women’s basketball team advanced to the NAIA Division II semifinals, the football team twice appeared in the NAIA quarterfinals and the wrestling team captured the 2001 NAIA championship.
Cartwright inspired many in Raider athletics and in the health and physical education department, said Sayre. “He was a coach and educator in the best sense of those words,” said Sayre. “He embodied the best values of the profession he loved and cared deeply about the people he hired, coached and worked with. Monty showed us what wisdom, courage and character looked like every day of his life. I will always be grateful to him for that example.”
Cartwright was a professor in health and PE for 22 years. A 1967 graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, he earned a master’s in physical education from Idaho State in 1972. Prior to SOU, he spent 10 years as the track and cross country coach at the College of the Canyons in Valencia, California, and two years as the head track coach at Montana State. At SOU, he was also the head cross country coach for eight years.
Even after he left SOU, said Bobby Heiken, associate athletic director, Cartwright remained in touch, was kept apprised of various projects and offered guidance when appropriate. Cartwright was all about SOU, said Heiken. “He cared for every student he came across,” said Heiken. “He was kind of the perfect fit as athletic director at a small school, where it is about the student-athletes. He cared about their well being and wanted success for everybody.”
His enthusiasm for life only grew stronger after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s mantle cell lymphoma at 58. A master track All-American, in 2011 he self-published his first book: “Aging, Health and the Athletic Mind Attitude: A game plan for aging and health challenges.” He remained an avid writer and poet until his death.
“He was just so motivating and inspirational,” said Sally Jones, another member of the 2010 SOU Hall of Fame class and close friend. “His students, colleagues, friends and family all loved him very much. He touched so many people.”
He is survived by his wife, Juliana, SOU’s former nursing program director, and their three daughters: Dawn, Dyan and Michelle.
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